Faith Versus Works
Where you stand on faith and works is profoundly important. This topic has become the dividing line for religions that claim to accept the Bible. Before I reach a conclusion on the issue I will examine the evidence from the Bible and then share the gift and consequences according to where one stands on this issue.
One may think that faith and works do not make a dichotomy. They will likely say that you need both, you have to have faith and works. Or they might say that you need faith initially, but without works your salvation can’t be maintained. Roman Catholics are the largest group that hold this view. They say that it is God’s grace through a person’s faith that initially saves a person, but it is up to the person to take part in rituals such as baptism, the Eucharist, and confession in order to keep themself saved. What does the Bible say about this? In Galatians 3:1-3 Paul says “You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified? I only want to learn this from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?” In other words, whatever that thing was that saved you, that is the thing that will keep your salvation. Was it works? No. It was Grace operating through faith, and these people were aware of it. That faith in God through the moving of the Holy Spirit is the lone thing that saved them, and that faith in God needs to be the only thing they/ we trust in for salvation.
Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that through doing good works they will earn a special spot in heaven. Jehovah’s Witnesses just want to get to heaven, while Mormons are striving to achieve the highest level of heaven by all the good things that they do. And in case you’re thinking that this belief is exclusive to the cults, you should know that many people that are in good solid churches stumble into this mindset as well. I see Christians all the time wondering where their salvation lies as they are struggling in an addiction or terrible behavior. Someone is not a made a Christian by quitting drinking or drugs. I would expect such behavior to be a side effect, but too often we try to make the side effect the main point.
Let’s put a little history to it. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Abraham believed God and that was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15 6). Moses and the nation of Israel as a whole found grace in the eyes of God. It was God’s choosing that accomplishes salvation work. It certainly had nothing to do with the works that Israel had done at that point, because they have not even been instructed by God yet. David was called a man after God’s heart, but he did a lot of terrible acts. Paul was a man that was advocating the killing of Christians, when God, to show His grace, chose to use Paul as the premier author of the New Testament. Hebrews chapter 11 describes other men of faith.
Are work necessary? I cannot say this enough- clearly define your terms. What do we mean by necessary? It’s like asking is baptism necessary? You can get caught in a trap if you don’t clearly define “necessary”. Necessary can either mean commanded or needed for salvation. Baptism is commanded, therefore needs to be done. Baptism does not save you. Our good works need to be done since they are commanded, not because they are needed for salvation. Galatians 2:16 ought to settle point: “we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.” For further confirmation, Titus 3:5- “He saved us, not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
What has been said up to this point should be sufficient to make it clear that our salvation is in no way dependent on our works.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the topic of faith versus works. I will respond to some of the objections to “sola fide”, salvation by faith alone.